Jesus: born to die for us
For many people in Jesus’ time it must have seemed that He came out of nowhere. He burst onto the scene at 30 years of age – speaking with an authority that astounded His listeners; prophesying of things to come; teaching with a depth of understanding that drew crowds; and performing outstanding miracles of healing and provision.
Yet Jesus knew full well why He had come: “Search the Scriptures… they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). And He knew who He was: “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30).
Jesus came as prophesied. From Genesis onwards, the Old Testament is full of clues and direct prophecy about the One who was to come. These prophecies covered every aspect of His life. The gospel of Matthew, particularly, notes many aspects of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry as fulfilments of earlier prophecies – prophecies that speak of where He would be born, the circumstances of His birth, His ministry and His mission.
He came to save us
As Adam and Eve were being cast out of the Garden of Eden, God said to the serpent: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). God foretold of One who would come: Jesus was going to come and crush the serpent’s head under foot. In so doing His ‘heel’ would be bruised – a prophecy that showed there would be a cost to our redemption. This cost was borne by Jesus as He died on the cross. In the very act of casting Adam and Eve out, God looked forward to a future with the answer for the human race: Jesus dying for our sins, rising victorious.
Almost 4,000 years ago, God called out Abraham (descended from Adam and Eve) and made promises to him. The promises were to be fulfilled over thousands of years and depended on Abraham having an heir. By a miracle, Abraham’s son, Isaac, was born and grew. As these events were unfolding in Abraham’s life, God gave him a test that showed again that He was intending to send His own Son to the earth (at this point, almost 2,000 years in the future). God said to Abraham: “… Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:2).
This statement is a thunderclap out of a clear blue sky. The earlier reference to ‘bruising his heel’ seems a bit sanitised by comparison. With Abraham and Isaac we see played out, closer to home (particularly if you are a parent), the cost that will be borne. As the father and the son make their way to the mountain, Isaac asks: “… Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham replies “… My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen 22:7-8). The story in Genesis 22 is heart-wrenching and dramatic. At the moment of sacrifice an angel of God calls out to Abraham to stay his hand. Nearby in a bush is a ram caught by its horns, and it becomes the sacrifice instead. In speaking to Abraham the angel of God says: “… thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:12).
Jesus, the Son of God, came to die. God did provide a ‘lamb’. God did not withhold Him from this, but purposed that Jesus would go all the way to the cross. God used the (almost) offering of Isaac by Abraham, as a foreshadowing of the momentous events of the crucifixion. The best relationship God could use to help us understand this was that between a parent and child. Jesus cried from the cross “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46); and when He died: “… the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matthew 27:51). This had never been before. The Father had seen the Son die.
Why did He have to die?
In the Old Testament, God instituted the law to teach us what was wrong. Before that there was no understanding of sin and the separation it causes between God and us. God in His righteousness has ordained that the consequence of sin is death. If sin did not result in death, then sin would magnify over the millennia until our existence would truly be ‘hell on earth’. God instituted the sacrifice of animals (for example, a lamb) in the Old Testament to teach His people that sin results in death.
Hebrews 10 describes the Old Testament sacrifice laws and how they were only a temporary solution: “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins” (Hebrews 10:1-2 NIV). In other words, the fact that people had to come back year after year and make another sacrifice showed that it didn’t work – it was only a temporary stop-gap: “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:11 NIV).
Jesus came to make one perfect sacrifice; He “… offered one sacrifice for sins forever…” and “… hath perfected forever them that are sanctified…” so that He would be able to “put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds…” (Hebrews 10:12, 14, 16). The wonderful result of this is: “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:17-18).
Jesus fulfilled the historical pattern of the Old Testament in one perfect, all-sufficient, never to be repeated, act of pure love for all humanity.
He bought freedom
By dying, He also set the stage for us to be free. The Bible tells us we are in bondage when we live under sin. In another example from the Old Testament, we read about the deliverance of the Children of Israel from being slaves under Pharaoh in Egypt. God, through Moses, sent ten plagues upon the land of Egypt to show His power, and so that Pharaoh would let the people in slavery go.
Again, we see God’s plan for His Son to come. The last plague visited upon Egypt was the death of the first-born in all the land of Egypt. But God created a means by which the angel would not visit death upon the Israelites. The Children of Israel were to take a lamb “… without blemish, a male of the first year… [and] kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses… For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt… And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:5-7, 12-13).
The lamb represented Jesus – the perfect spotless sacrifice. His blood was shed to redeem us from death. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he proclaimed Him as: “… the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In the Old Testament, God saw the blood of the lamb and passed over (did not visit death upon them). God’s own Son, Jesus, became that lamb – opening up the way for eternal life to us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Foretold from the beginning
Many other prophecies point to His coming and suffering for us.
Moses prophesied 1500 years before He came: “… a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee…” (Deuteronomy 18:18).
David spoke of the manner of His death a thousand years before it happened: “They gaped upon me with their mouths… I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax… My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death… the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture” (Psalm 22:13-18).
Isaiah spoke of Jesus’ death 700 years before it happened: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief… Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray… the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all… he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter…” (Isaiah 53:3-7).
He rose again; He lives still
He didn’t just come to die. He came to rise again. He came to pour out the Holy Spirit on His followers (Acts 2). And He said we would come again: “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be… and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:27, 30).
The angel that announced His birth said to Mary: “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-33). He is coming again to rule over a kingdom that shall never end.
He promised eternal life to His followers. If you want to be a part of a glorious and eternal future, believe on the One who came to save you. Get filled with the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised, and start living your own eternal story.
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